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Indy's Clinician-Led Community Response Team Steps Up

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author Terri Dee, Anchor/Producer

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Friday, August 25, 2023   

What began as a conversation between Indianapolis community leaders about public health and criminal-justice reform in 2021 has led to formation of a new team to address the needs of people with mental-health issues.

The Clinician-Led Community Response Team, which has been responding to calls since July, is made up of professionals trained in mental-health crisis intervention and disengagement techniques without law enforcement involvement.

CLCR team director Andrea Brown, with the Stepping Stones Therapy Center, said they're available to meet people in the community "where they are," and offer support in a safe environment.

"As long as there's no threat of violence, our clinicians will respond to the call," she said, "and we basically just assist with getting individuals' immediate needs met, such as connecting them to food, housing and employment resources."

The CLCR Team is a response, in part, to community pressure. Public criticism was swift after three Indianapolis police officers handcuffed and tased Herman Whitfield III last year during a mental-health episode. The death was ruled a homicide and the officers have been criminally charged.

According to federal data, the most common forms of mental illness are schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. A study almost a decade ago by the Treatment Advocacy Center found that people with untreated mental illness were 16 times more likely to lose their lives during a police encounter than others who are approached or stopped by law enforcement.

Brown said the goal is to sidestep those deadly consequences with longer-term solutions.

"We'll ensure that there's a warm handoff and that they understand the needs of the client," she said, "so that we connect them to the appropriate resources - and not just drop them off somewhere and say, 'Take care.'"

The CLCR Team is currently working overnight, between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. daily, but future plans are to make services available around the clock. Anyone who needs help can call 911. Brown said the team communicates regularly with the resource referrals to make sure the people they assist are getting their ongoing needs met.


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